Inspired by the success of its Alberta Boost online crowdfunding platform, ATB Financial has unveiled a new way to support the province's small businesses, this time through crowdlending.
ATB LendR gives Albertans the opportunity to, as a crowd, loan money to budding entrepreneurs. Once an entrepreneur reaches half of its funding goal, ATB will provide the remaining half, completing the loan. ATB collects and distributes payments and interest back to the LendRs.
" Alberta is a really community-oriented province," said Wellington Holbrook, ATB's vice president, Business & Agriculture. "People want to rally around the businesses they believe in. We think this is one way we can help connect those potential investors who want to support local businesses doing great things."
ATB is now actively recruiting Founding LendRs—Albertans who would review the businesses applying for financing, learn the entrepreneurs' stories and decide whether or not to contribute to a loan.
"It's a way to give back," said Holbrook. "For great entrepreneurs who've been very successful here and want to help the next one, this is the way. They can provide direct financial support in small doses to help new businesses grow, do more things and make our communities better."
James Belcher , a Calgary entrepreneur about to launch a new downtown restaurant, Paper ST, was the first to sign up as a Founding LendR. He has since recruited other members of his team to do the same.
"The idea of entrepreneurs helping other entrepreneurs, looking at businesses that have growth potential, that's what attracted me," said Belcher. "I've been on that other side of it. I knocked on many doors when I started off—whether it was through banks or other investors—and I certainly heard 'no' more than a few times. ATB LendR is a huge benefit to an entrepreneur and it would be a source of pride for LendRs to help somebody realize their dreams."
Once a full complement of LendRs are in place, ATB LendR will be ready to take financing applications. Launching a crowdlending platform is one way ATB is more than a bank.
"The world of banking for small and mid-sized businesses is changing dramatically and ATB wants to be on the forefront of that," added Holbrook. "We're doing that by championing innovative ways to provide access to financing for small businesses. This is just one of a long list of examples you'll see from ATB in the years ahead."